The Wednesday press conference that many thought would announce the changing of athletic conferences for Marshall turned into a fundraising event for both the Marshall University Foundation and Marshall Athletics. Marshall Officials know that the best move for MU would be CUSA for all sports and that this cant be done unless improvements are made in the MU athletic facilities, in fact even if Marshall stays in the MAC forever (heaven forbid) if it is to stay on top in football and get to the top in the other sports, improvements must be made.
I hear a lot of fans say that many of these improvements are not needed; no one will argue that a baseball field is not needed, but MU needs more than a baseball field. It needs a baseball stadium or it will be like the incomplete soccer and softball fields and the track. These sports need and deserve locker rooms for the athletes and press boxes with phone lines and computer hookups so games can be broadcast on radio and stats and game summaries can be send out to the media as soon as possible.
Fans say MU doesnt need a bubble over its track to be used as a indoor football facility, but it would be used for much more: the band can practice there, the track team will have a practice facility during the cold early spring weather and the winter indoor season, the baseball and softball teams can practice there in January and February when the WV winter is not really conducive to outdoor practice; the football and soccer teams can use it for winter conditioning drills; and the students and faculty can use it for jogging or walking when the weather conditions are bad.
I heard one person even say that the Olympic sports teams didn't need locker rooms because they could use Henderson Center or the Facilities building at the Stadium. This would have been the same as building the Henderson Center and the football stadium without locker rooms because Marshall had a nice Student Union or dorms where they could dress or shower. That would be quite silly, just as it is quite silly to have the other sports dress in another facility.
So, facilities are needed badly for MU and the only way they can be obtained is by the school raising the monies; the State Legislature could help some but in reality they are not much of an option. Marshall really has only a few choices for raising money: first by selling more tickets, and MU already has a pretty high percentage of available tickets sold; by charging more for tickets, but then you get the old argument that the tickets are too expensive for some opponents. However, you are not paying to see the opponent , rather, you're paying to see Marshall play; naming rights to athletic facilities; and finally, by gifts and donations from school alumni and boosters.
The bulk of the money for these projects will have to come from gifts and donations, so if you truly want to see Marshall continue to get better, be prepared to help out with your giving.
The Olympic coaches at Marshall do a very good job with the limited resources they are given and I believe if they are given the support they need then these programs can flourish just as football has at Marshall University.
The NCAA is looking at new rules concerning membership in 1A football this week and that could really affect the MAC. The new proposals are for schools to: have at least sixteen sports of which at least eight have to be women's sports; to give a total of 200 athletic scholarships; to give at least 90% of the allowed 85 football scholarships; to play at least five home football games against 1A opponents; and to average 15,000 people per game for football.
The MAC schools will have no trouble with the number of sports or the total scholarship rules, because all the MAC schools seem to be meeting these requirements now. Several MAC schools don't meet the five 1A home game criteria but that can probably be taken care of by the MAC, CUSA, Sunbelt the WAC and the Mountain West conferences working together to put home-and-home series together to assure all schools will meet this requirement.
The attendance figure could be hard for some schools to meet. This past weekend, MU had 30,000 for the Homecoming football game while the other five MAC games only averaged 14,200 people. I'm sure what schools will do is have companies purchase large blocks of tickets to be given away or sold cheaply. This may meet the requirement but will do nothing to enhance the MAC as a viable 1A football league. It will be interesting to see how all of this shakes out in the next year or two.
With the upsets this past weekend in the MAC western division, Ball State and Northern Illinois have placed themselves in position to possibly win the western division and host the MAC Championship game. Im sure that ESPN will be really impressed when they see the press boxes at these two schools. I've been in the Northern press box and it is very small, and I have been told that the Ball State facility is smaller that the one in DeKalb. I'm sure that this is something the MAC offices never considered when they decided to move the game to the home of the Western Division champion but if things work out right (or wrong) it could be very embarrassing for the conference when national TV comes to one of these facilities.